Edinson Volquez doesn’t want his injured ankle to heal.
That’s right. Volquez wants it to remain sore from now until the end of the season, and for good reason.
He claims it’s helping him pitch better.
“You know what’s crazy?” Volquez said on Thursday night after following Saturday’s no-hitter with another pitching gem in the Marlins’ 7-1 victory over the Pirates. “My ankle. I don’t try to do too much because of my ankle.”
And not trying to do too much has turned Volquez (3-7) into a different pitcher than the one who lost his first seven decisions as a Marlin. He’s won his past three starts, holding opponents to one earned run on six hits over 22 combined innings.
Saturday’s no-hitter has been the highlight of his awakening.
But Volquez, who twisted his ankle in the first inning of that performance and nearly couldn’t continue as a result, proved Thursday that the outing was not a fluke.
He gave up a first-inning bunt single to Josh Harrison, a sixth-inning double to Harrison and a seventh-inning double to pinch-hitter Josh Bell.
Volquez managed to get out of a rough first inning in which the Pirates loaded the bases on a hit, walk and hit batter without incurring any damage.
He ended up coming out after the seventh, throwing a season-high 111 pitches.
“I think it was better today,” Volquez said in comparing Thursday’s performance to his no-hit effort on Saturday. “I think I threw more strikes today with my breaking ball.”
Volquez is convinced that his injured ankle has helped him improve.
“It’s something to do with my mechanics, my delivery,” said Volquez of the effect the injured right ankle has had on his movement. “I don’t jump to the plate. Make sure my ankle is fine to support my weight.”
Volquez even joked he might re-injure the ankle after it heals.
“When I fix my ankle, I’m going to hit it again with a bat,” he said, laughing. “Keep it the whole year like that. Keep it sore and I’ll be fine.”
Manager Don Mattingly said Volquez of late is an even better pitcher than the innings-eating veteran the organization envisioned him to be when the Marlins signed him over the winter.
“These last couple [of starts] are obviously better than what we thought,” Mattingly said. “We didn’t expect no-hitters and things like that.”
Mattingly said that before signing the free agent, the Marlins felt Volquez still possessed quality big-league stuff.
“His stuff had not backed up,” Mattingly said. “His stuff wasn’t [regressing], so we knew if we could get him right we’d have a chance to get him effective.”
Volquez has been that and more the past few games.
The Marlins gave him plenty of help on Thursday, striking early and often against Pittsburgh starter Gerrit Cole. The bottom half of the order inflicted the greatest damage, with Derek Dietrich driving in three runs on three hits, including a pair of doubles, Tyler Moore driving in two runs on two hits and J.T. Riddle adding an RBI single.
The Marlins ripped five doubles off Cole in the first four innings and knocked him out in the fifth with five consecutive two-out singles, a rare display of hitting by a team that has depended greatly on power for its runs.
For Dietrich, the night was especially gratifying.
His mother and grandmother were among the many friends and family members who drove to Pittsburgh from their homes outside Cleveland. And his late grandfather, Steve Demeter, worked for years in the Pirates organization. Demeter managed to reach the majors in 1959 and ’60 but played little.
“Playing in Pittsburgh this time around was special,” Dietrich said. “I came to Pittsburgh when I was a kid to watch games at old Three Rivers Stadium. It was awesome to be able to play in front of [family] and honor [Demeter] in a way.”